Study finds more lynchings occur in counties with a higher number of Confederate memorials

The Black-led study from the University of Virginia found that confederate memorials are a “positive and significant” predictor of lynching rates

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A recent study from the University of Virginia (UVA) found that among states that formerly belonged to the Confederacy, a higher number of lynchings occurred in counties with a higher number of Confederate memorials.

According to The Washington Post, UVA social psychology researcher and graduate student Kyshia Henderson led the study alongside data scientist Samuel Powers and professors Michele Claibourn, Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi and Sophie Trawalter.

The team concluded that there is a positive correlation between the number of lynching victims in counties within formerly Confederate States and the number of Confederate memorializations in that county.

In this June 8, 2020, file photo, is a monument to the region’s Confederate troops at a public plaza adjacent to the state Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

“This finding provides concrete, quantitative, historically and geographically situated evidence consistent with the position that Confederate memorializations reflect a racist history, marred by intentions to terrorize and intimidate Black Americans,” wrote the authors of the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

To examine the relationship between lynching rates and Confederate memorials, the research team obtained and synthesized county-level data on the reported number of instances within each category, ultimately finding evidence that the one is a “positive and significant” predictor of the other, though further research still needs to be done to prove a causal relationship.

“We can’t pinpoint exactly the cause and effect. But the association is clearly there,” Trawalter told the Post. “At a minimum, the data suggests that localities with attitudes and intentions that led to lynchings also had attitudes and intentions associated with the construction of Confederate memorials.”

According to the Post, major shifts in public opinion surrounding Confederate memorializations began as recently as 2015, sparked by raciallly-charged murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, followed by a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesvile in 2017.

Robert E. Lee statue thegrio.com
Robert E. Lee (Credit: Getty Images)

Despite a national movement of toppling Confederate memorials following the high-profile murder of George Floyd, killings of Breonna Taylor and others at the hands of police, many such memorials still remain erect in the United States, according to a separate study recently published by nonprofit organization Monument Lab.

In the study, researchers analyzed nearly half a million property records in an “audit” of over 50,000 public monuments across the United States. Data revealed that Robert E. Lee, a Confederate General, was the sixth most memorialized figure in the United States.

The study also revealed that out of over 5,900 monuments included in the study that incorporate a mention of the Civil War, just 1% also include mention of slavery.

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